Press Release

STAMFORD, Conn., July 10, 2006 View All Press Releases

Gartner Says Annual Failure Rates of PCs Are Improving, but Manufacturers Can Do Better

Benchmark Report Examines PC Hardware Reliability Rates for Desktops and Notebooks

PC vendors have reduced hardware annual failure rates (AFRs) by approximately 25 percent in the past two years, but there is still room for improvement, according to a benchmark study by Gartner, Inc.

While the good news is that desktop PC and notebook PC hardware AFRs have declined, the bad news is that notebook AFRs still range from 15 percent to 20 percent throughout the life of the system. Three years ago, notebook AFRs averaged 20 percent in the first year, climbing to 28 percent in the third year (see Table 1). Desktop AFRs have gone from 7 percent in year 1 and 15 percent in the fourth year of life to a current level of 5 percent in year 1 with an anticipated 12 percent in the fourth year.

“Users need to track their PC failure rates to spot problems and hold their PC suppliers accountable,” said Leslie Fiering, research vice president at Gartner. “Once chief financial officers (CFOs) become aware of PC failure rates, especially in enterprises that purchase thousands of PC each year, there will be extra pressure placed on chief information officers (CIOs) to spot problems and hold their PC supplier responsible. CFOs will want assurances that the equipment they finance is not going to result in downtime for their employees.”

Gartner defines a hardware failure as any repair incident that requires a hardware component to be replaced. The component can be as trivial as a notebook latch or as significant as a motherboard. The general pattern is for newly purchased systems to have an early shakeout period with high failure rates that drop back to lower levels after 60 to 90 days.

There are no publicly available PC hardware reliability figures because PC vendors consider the information proprietary and will not disclose it. However, many PC vendors and warranty repair providers have shared the information with Gartner off the record during the past several years. Gartner has cross-checked this input against feedback of Gartner clients, many of whom manage installed bases of 50,000 or more units.

Table 1
Average Annualized Failure Rates for Desktop and Notebook PCs (Percent)


Systems Purchased in 2005-2006

Systems Purchased in 2003-2004




Year 1



Year 4






Year 1



Year 4



* Projected
Source: Gartner Dataquest (June 2006)

For desktop systems, motherboards and hard drives are the two largest sources of failures. “The number of motherboard replacements has been rising over time as more components get integrated onboard,” Ms. Fiering said. “Parts such as network interface cards (NICs) or modems can no longer be swapped out as separate parts. If either of these fails, an entire motherboard swap is required.”

“For notebooks, screen breakage used to be the single-largest source of failure,” Ms. Fiering said. “However, over time, notebook manufacturers have improved design significantly to reduce screen breakage by adding structural rigidity to the notebook casing and screen bezel, as well as by providing a greater clearance between the screen and the keyboard when the system is closed.”

Currently, the top sources of notebook failures on systems less than two years old are:

  • Motherboards and hard drives (tied for first place, each ranging between 25 percent and 45 percent of total hardware failures)
  • Chassis, including latches, hinges, feet and case cracks
  • Keyboards, with keycaps falling off or getting discolored, and spilled drinks seeping under the keyboard
  • Screens

Some measures that the smartest PC vendors have implemented to improve reliability include: increasing design and system testing; increasing component qualification; raising the penalty to component suppliers for component failures; and performing overall system tests during repair incidents to spot and fix any imminent problems before they can cause further failures.

Some of the steps users can employ to reduce failure rates include: performing due diligence on PC vendor quality assurance programs and AFRs as part of the vendor selection process; verifying the PC vendor’s escalation and problem resolution processes; checking with PC vendor reference accounts on reliability; and establishing query and reporting capabilities within internal help desk, asset management and support systems to extract hardware failure rate data by model and failure type.

Additional information is available in the Gartner report “Benchmarking PC Hardware Reliability." The report provides detailed analysis on PC failure rates, as well as advice for both vendors and users to improve/reduce these failure rates. The report is available on Gartner’s Web site at


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